Within his interior and landscape paintings, largely influenced by the architecture and nature of California, Bercea portrays a sensorial reality through a hybrid of both real and imagined hidden places. Evidenced in the subject, aspect and scale of his new work, which range from large panoramas to small square details, Bercea has moved from the narrative-orientated travelogue of his earlier ‘Transylfornia’ works and his view of California is now more deeply entrenched.
With a behind-the-scenes perspective, he paints from the position of a curtain twitching resident. Seemingly private moments are caught through a window or across a back garden, from a view point that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hitchcock film. But this is voyeurism two steps removed. Painting every work from his studio back in Cluj, Bercea plays with the distance between California and Transylvania, and the blurring effect of memory recall. By doing so he projects a liminal state between two realities and mindsets. He uses swimming pools as a recurring motif but rather than being clichéd icons of a Californian dream they are a representation of several states: below, between and above the water.
Bercea’s scenes are often sparsely populated but where individual characters do feature they now take centre stage. Bercea’s emphasis here is on raising questions about these solitary players, their intentions and motives. In Mosaic of Certitudes, a lone artist sits by his easel, trying to pick up radio signals from foreign lands via a makeshift aerial on a rooftop garden, dwarfed by pot plants and inexplicably surrounded by airborne watermelons. Here and elsewhere throughout the exhibition, characters come to the fore, all the time vying for attention with flora and fauna that dominate the compositions.
In works such as Earth Gender and Pluralizing Rhythm, invasive foliage is encroaching rapidly on the built environment: growing through latticed fences, filling swimming pools and monopolising the frame as if in challenge to the human subjects. Bercea’s plants exist in both their artificial and natural habitats, either dominating manmade space or submitting to it, further representing multiple modes of being. This gregarious plant life enlivens the senses, including even smell and touch through the implied bouquet of a blossoming flower or tactile spikes of a cactus.
Bercea’s interest in design is evident, especially the influence of specific Viennese architects such as Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner and Rudolf Schindler that he traces from his hometown around the globe. His expanding collection of vintage design books, architecture journals, pamphlets and magazines provide additional reference points as he distils his memories and impressions from afar. In a new series of small details painted onto wood, approximately 15cm square, Bercea explores up-close the design features and architectural motifs that he finds in these publications. This also allows a conversation between small scale works and the large panoramas, which reveal expanded views of the same subjects. Spanning the far end of the gallery is a four-panel interior scene, Bercea’s largest painting to-date. Physics for the Liminal Training is an imagined scene inspired by theatre set design. This complex composition features optical tricks and curious objects coded with meaning, including a smaller painting that can be found hanging elsewhere in the exhibition.